Running Time: 95 mins
Rated: MA 15+
It seems to be the season for time travel. In recent weeks we have had Kate & Leopold going between the 19th and 21st Century and now The Time Machine travels from the early 20th to the 801st with a few stops in between. Curiously, in both films, Australian actors are in the pilot's seat: Hugh Jackman in the first film and Guy Pearce here.
Based on the HG Wells novel, Alexander Hartdegen (Pearce) is a professor at New York's Columbia University who invents a time travel machine. The first use he has for his machine is when his fiancé Emma dies just after he proposes marriage to her. Alex goes back in time to reorder the events leading up to her death, so he can save her from it. This is not meant to
be, for, against all probability, in one of the silliest plot lines imaginable, she is killed again.
In his despair, Alex goes forward in time to see what becomes of the world. He lands in 2037 as the moon is breaking up and civil war has broken out in New York. Next he goes to 80271 to find humanity has mutated and that those who live above ground are food for the subterranean cannibals, led by Jeremy Irons. Learning nothing from his previous interventions Alex works to save the day.
The Time Machine is a science fiction horror film. There are some very disturbing images that will frighten children and a few adults. As with most of the other examples of this genre these days, the sound track is where most of the shocks are driven home. It is very loud indeed and when it calms down an Enya sound-a-like soothes us with her echoing and haunting solos.
There are problems everywhere in The Time Machine. The script is so far-fetched it is hard to suspend the amount of disbelief required. The updating of the Wells novel has none of his style and does nothing for the drama of the story. Some of the dialogue is lamentable. Guy Pearce is too stilted to be convincing and Jeremy Irons looks and sounds ridiculous rather than scary. The star of the film seems to be the time machine, which would be bad enough except that we are told at least three times that "it is only a machine', but not to the producers of this film it's not!
The values of the film hinge around the question "what if?" And the answers that The Time Machine provides are as unhelpful and unsatisfying as an exploration of that inquiry for grief filled people both now and in the future.
Richard Leonard SJ